Tom and Jerry (Gene Deitch Era)

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Tom and Jerry (Gene Deitch Era)
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The dark age of the cat-and-mouse duo.
Genre: Comedy
Running Time: 6-8 Minutes
Country: United States
Czechoslovakia
Release Date: September 7, 1961 –
December 21, 1962
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Starring: Allen Swift
Gene Deitch
Kutula Zbyňková
Episodes: 13 Shorts


In 1961, several years after the original MGM cartoon studio had shut down in 1957, MGM continued production of new Tom and Jerry cartoons, but this time outsourced to Czechoslovakia with much smaller budgets. Under the supervision of American-Czech animator Gene Deitch of the UPA/Terrytoons fame as director and William L. Snyder as producer, Deitch and his team of Czechoslovakian animators produced 13 Tom and Jerry cartoons at Rembrandt Films for MGM with a very tight budget of $10,000.

While the Hanna-Barbera (1940-1958) and Chuck Jones eras (1963-1967) of Tom and Jerry were well received, the same can't be said for the Gene Deitch Era (1961-1962), which was universally panned by fans and critics alike.

Shorts

  1. "Switchin' Kitten" (September 9, 1961)
  2. "Down and Outing" (October 7, 1961)
  3. "It's Greek To Me-Ow" (December 7, 1961)
  4. "High Steaks" (March 23, 1962)
  5. "Mouse Into Space" (April 13, 1962)
  6. "Landing Stripling" (May 18, 1962)
  7. "Calypso Cat" (June 22, 1962)
  8. "Dicky Moe" (July 20, 1962)
  9. "The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit" (August 10, 1962)
  10. "Tall In The Trap" (September 1, 1962)
  11. "Sorry Safari" (October 18, 1962)
  12. "Buddies Thicker Than Water" (November 1, 1962)
  13. "Carmen Get It" (December 1, 1962)

Why This Era Sucks

  1. Extremely awful and poor animation, even for 1960s standards, with washed out colors, very ugly character designs and jerky movement. Deitch claimed this was due to his team of inexperienced animators and a tighter budget of $10,000, in contrast to Hanna-Barbera's more lavish budget of $50,000, and it was canceled after 13 shorts.
    • Because of this, certain shorts also have out-of-nowhere jump cuts which can be distracting.
  2. Awful writing that doesn't stay true to the show.
  3. The era's logic makes zero sense, even for Tom and Jerry standards. An example is when Tom's owner in "High Steaks" shakes a bottle of soda, forces it into Tom’s mouth and turns Tom into the shape of the soda bottle.
  4. This era is very one-sided and one-dimensional, as almost all of the shorts are nothing more than Tom torture scenarios ("High Steaks", "Down and Outing" and "Sorry Safari" being the worst offenders). Unlike in the classic era and the Chuck Jones era, where Tom never suffers through actual harm going on even if it's mostly undeserved, here, he is innocent and he does nothing wrong, but gets maliciously abused and tormented for no reason other than trying too hard to make the slapstick ''extreme''.
  5. Jerry has gotten flanderizedLCW in this era. He has gone from a troublesome and cunning but lovable and cute mouse into a flat-out malicious sadistic jerk who always tortures Tom at the slightest provocation or for no reason at all, and in a way that seems more like serious attacks rather than just teasing him. Unlike the classic era and the Chuck Jones era, where Tom occasionally wins or him and Jerry put aside their differences (or yet, where Jerry would even get his comeuppance as well especially based on provoking Tom), Jerry almost always wins in the end. Instead of bonding over a mutual sentiment towards an unpleasant experience as he usually does with Tom, he became a complete Karma Houdini that never gets what's coming to him. Most of these really show they had Jerry play at his absolute worst.
    • Likewise, even Tom has been flanderized, into more of a huge punching bag than usual. In addition, Tom appear to be much weaker and more cowardly and frail than usual, which is the most notable in the three cartoons featuring his infamous and notorious owner (see WIS #12).
  6. Many characters from the classic/golden era, such as Spike, Butch, Quacker, Nibbles, Toodles Galore, Topsy, etc. are nowhere to be seen in this era.
  7. Gratuitous over the top violence that isn't funny at all, but rather brutal and hurtful.
  8. Horrendous soundtrack and creepy sound effects. For example, when Jerry saws through the wood in "Landing Stripling", it sounds more like an angry cat than wood being sawed. In the same short, there's a woodpecker character who only makes these creepy and annoying synthesized warbles.
    • The sound effects sometimes don't sync up, mainly as the result of bad editing. For instance, in the beginning of "Calypso Cat", the clanging sounds heard as Tom bashes at Jerry aren't in sync, mainly because there's too many clangs.
    • In all fairness, the music and sound effects were so poor because they're simply weren't any better; had they tried to buy sound effects from the state-owned Czechoslovakian studios, the communist authorities would've found them and kicked out.
  9. Cringe-inducing voice acting from Allen Swift (who, by the way, was usually the only voice actor). For example, Tom and Jerry's laughing in some shorts such as "It's Greek To Me-Ow" and "Mouse Into Space" come off as creepy and unfitting. Also, Tom's new screams in shorts like "Landing Stripling" and "High Steaks" sound disturbing.
  10. Most of the shorts are either boring, annoying, unfunny, repetitive, creepy, frustrating, unsettling, or just plain cruel and mean-spirited.
  11. Gene Deitch himself disliked the original Tom and Jerry (most likely because of its violence), yet he was given the task of working on the series (instead of Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng or some other great animation director of the time), though Deitch later changed his opinion. After being assigned to work on the series, Deitch quickly realized that "nobody took [the violence] seriously" and it was merely "a parody of exaggerated human emotions".
    • To add salt to the wound, Deitch was apparently the only person of his entire animation unit in Czechoslovakia who had ever seen any of the original Tom and Jerry cartoons, while the rest of his Czechoslovakian animation crew had never seen any of the Tom and Jerry cartoons at all (as the country was on the Communist side of the "Iron Curtain", making this somewhat excusable), hence the Deitch unit's incompetence at making Tom and Jerry cartoons.
  12. Extremely unlikable human characters, such as the butcher and sheriff in "Tall in the Trap" (originally meant to be a Looney Tunes short starring Sylvester and Speedy Gonzales before Tedd Pierce, a Warner Bros. screenwriter, sold the script to Deitch, which explains the out-of-character behavior for the duo) , the pirate captain in "Dicky Moe", and the opera conductor in "Carmen Get It". However, the worst is Tom's ownerLCW, who is outright abusive towards Tom. Whereas Tom's original owners would usually throw him out of the house or hit him with a broom at worst, Tom's owner in this era actually physically abuses and violently tortures Tom in ways that are practically animal abuse. Alongside that, he never gets his comeuppance except in "Sorry Safari".
  13. Some scenes feel like prolonged filler. Take the first short "Switchin' Kitten", which begins with a needlessly lengthy scene of a horse carriage coming from the distance before Tom is ejected.
    • On that note, the pacing is all over the place in many of them. Some of them are very sluggish and tiresome such as "Switchin' Kitten" and "Sorry Safari", while others such as "High Steaks" and "Landing Stripling" start off slow, but suddenly become way too fast, which is a big contributor to most of the gags falling flat.
  14. Most of the background music by Štěpán Koníček are just generic stock music (again, the budget issues make this somewhat excusable). And when the final few shorts do start using original music, it doesn't feel anything like what you'd expect in a cartoon.
    • Speaking of which, many of the shorts' opening music is simply taken from the Hanna-Barbera era cartoon Jerry's Cousin composed by longtime MGM cartoon composer Scott Bradley, which could be considered infringement.
  15. Speaking of which, the backgrounds can sometimes feel unfinished and empty in details (most notably in "Landing Stripling")
  16. Horrendously lazy editing as there are many animation errors everywhere. For example, there was a scene where Tom's eyebrows disappear in "The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit". They also misspelled "sheriff as "shariff" in "Tall in the Trap"

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The series improved and became highly creative once Chuck Jones took over.
  2. It adds some new ideas to the franchise that haven't been done before. For instance, most of the episodes no longer take place near a house and utilize other themes, which would carry on the Chuck Jones era.
  3. The awkward animations and voices can make for unintentional comedy.
  4. Tom is still a likable character as usual.
  5. There are still a few good shorts, like "Buddies Thicker Than Water", "The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit", "Tall In The Trap" and "Carmen Get It" (which ended this era on a high note).
  6. Some funny moments, like Jerry impersonating the MGM lion at the end of "Switchin' Kitten" and Tom bouncing around with a burning bottom in "Landing Stripling".
  7. Creative opening sequences.
  8. The music intro from the original cartoons returns and has at least stayed true to the 1940-1958 cartoons.
  9. Depending on your view, "Calypso Cat" is the only episode in the era where Tom wins in the end and Jerry gets his comeuppance, as despite losing his love interest to the calypso player, he instantly pursues Jerry in a chase at the end.
    • There are also a few cartoons where Tom does deserve his comeuppance, such as "Landing Stripling" and "Buddies Thicker Than Water".
  10. A few Hanna-Barbera era characters return, such as Lightning Cat (in "Switchin' Kitten") and Baby Woodpecker (in "Landing Stripling").

Trivia

  • Tom's owner in this era bears a slight resemblance to Clint Clobber, who is one of Gene Deitch's original characters that appeared in Terrytoons shorts that ran from 1957 to 1959. Rumor has it that the two characters were the same person in which all fans called him "Clint Clobber". Because his name was never revealed, some fans refer to him as the fat man. According to Deitch, however, these similarities between the two are coincidental.
  • Due to negative reception, Tom's Owner is never seen or heard from again after "Sorry Safari".
  • Gene Deitch once stated he received a death threat due to the shorts' quality. He since mellowed out and even accepted to talk about these cartoons and the threats of working behind the Iron Curtain, which the fans accepted as soon as they understood his reasoning.
  • In 2015, an entire collection of all 13 cartoons made by Gene Deitch were released onto DVD following the 75th anniversary of Tom and Jerry.[1]
  • Gene Deitch has passed away on April 16, 2020 at the age of 96.
  • Many other Deitch cartoons, such as Munro, the first non-American Academy Award winner for Best Short Animated Film and Nudnik, are considered some of the best abstract animation ever made.

Videos

A riff on the entirety of the Gene Deitch era of Tom and Jerry.

Comments


avatar

Mr. Dready

2 months ago
Score 1
If you ask me the animation isn't exactly horroundes or is it just me not that good at analysing the animation in older cartoons if they're good or bad.
avatar

Mr. Dready

5 days ago
Score 0
Considering fans consider this the worst Tom & Jerry shorts, i wonder about Gene Deitch’s work on Popeye.

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